News / USA

    US Tourists Treated to True Taste of Tuscany

    Antoinette Mazzaglia shows her fellow Americans how to eat well in her adopted Italian city

    Antoinette Mazzaglia, of Taste Florence, shows tourists how to read a wine label at the Golden View Open Bar overlooking Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.
    Antoinette Mazzaglia, of Taste Florence, shows tourists how to read a wine label at the Golden View Open Bar overlooking Florence’s Ponte Vecchio.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Nancy Greenleese

    Antoinette Mazzaglia knows where to find all of the best food in her adopted city of Florence, Italy, and she's helping fellow Americans find it.

    After hearing repeated tourist complaints about the local cuisine, the food and wine expert launched Taste Florence four years ago, to give tourists a true taste of the Tuscan capital.

    The petite woman with flowing black hair and high-heeled sandals stands on a church’s steps, looking more Italian than Sophia Loren. She hands out an Italian breakfast staple - cornetti - pastries filled with custard - to a half-dozen Americans. As they nibble, Mazzaglia, Toni for short, introduces herself.

    “Basically, all my great-grandparents were born all over Italy, mostly in the South. And so I like to say that I’m 100 percent Italian. I was just assembled in America. Kind of like a Volkswagen, actually like a Fiat now.”

    Third-generation Florentine butcher Luca Menoni, with Antoinette Mazzaglia, explains to tourists how he selects the meats for which the city is famous.
    Third-generation Florentine butcher Luca Menoni, with Antoinette Mazzaglia, explains to tourists how he selects the meats for which the city is famous.

    She’s been parked in Florence for about a decade. The University of North Carolina graduate spent a semester abroad here, studying Italian culture and cuisine. She fell in love with a Tuscan man and decided to return. But she soon realized that her amore for Florence’s food was stronger than for the fellow.

    Good taste

    Mazzaglia launched Taste Florence with a simple goal.

    “For visitors, when they come to the city to not go away with a bad taste in their mouth.”

    She says tourists often fall into a bad-food trap after a long day of museum-hopping.

    “They’re starving and they get a really bad sandwich in one of those little tourist trap places that has everything," she says. "If a place has panini, gelato, waffles and pizza - there’s a place like that right near the Uffizi - it’s probably going to be really bad. Because if you have time to make all that, you really didn’t make it yourself.”

    Mazzaglia has to start from scratch in describing Tuscan cuisine, particularly to Americans who imagine they’ll be eating pizza and spaghetti. The bilingual Mazzaglia offers guided visits of markets and specialty shops.

    At Vestri gelateria, Antoinette Mazzaglia of Taste Florence pours aged balsamic vinegar on William Moore’s gelato for a uniquely Italian treat.
    At Vestri gelateria, Antoinette Mazzaglia of Taste Florence pours aged balsamic vinegar on William Moore’s gelato for a uniquely Italian treat.

    Her clients see and savor this so-called “poor man’s food” based on beans, vegetables and wild game. Today, a group of six Americans has already sampled Tuscan cheeses, meats, oils. Next up: gelato covered in aged balsamic vinegar.

    Pennie DiMartino digs in. “It almost tastes like liquor. Like if you put rum on ice cream. But better. It doesn’t have a liquor aftertaste."

    The Long Islander came to Italy to eat the Italian food that her half-Italian husband doesn’t know how to make. She and the others dine on spelt salad, stuffed zucchini and are encouraged to try salted cod on Friday.

    Learning curve

    Frequent traveler William Moore says Mazzaglia has helped them sink their teeth into Florence’s and Italy’s true art - cuisine.

    “You may not be able to appreciate every detail in every work of art at the Uffizi but you surely can appreciate a fantastic carbonara or what have you. We all come equipped with basic equipment - the taste buds for that. You don’t need a degree in art history to see the sort of subtle layers of this dish versus that."

    Antoinette Mazzaglia, who returned to her great-grandparents’ native land about 10 years ago, describes various types of salami to her tour group before they taste it.
    Antoinette Mazzaglia, who returned to her great-grandparents’ native land about 10 years ago, describes various types of salami to her tour group before they taste it.

    Mazzaglia's clients won’t get duped when selecting wines for dinner or gifts. They’ll also make sure their extra virgin olive oil isn’t more than a year old and won’t judge it by its color. Italians learn these lessons as children; Americans need a guide to this varied culinary culture.

    However, according to Mazzaglia, Americans are becoming more familiar with Italian cuisine thanks to cooking shows on television.

    “Now we're starting to watch the Food Network and other fantastic networks that are giving us a wealth of chefs and programs where they travel to Italy, to all parts of Italy, and helping people understand there is a difference," Mazzaglia says. "Each region has its own food, each town has its own food. Even across town in Florence, you have two different plates."    

    With each glass, it becomes clearer Mazzaglia has shown these Americans how to eat and drink like Italians. They linger over the Tuscan reds and nibble on tomato-topped bruschette. Strangers this morning exchange email addresses and promise to keep in touch.

    On this day, Taste Florence has taught them what Italians have known for centuries - that the time you spend eating is never wasted.

    You May Like

    South Sudan Sends First Ever Official Olympic Team to Rio

    VOA caught up with Santino Kenyi, 16, one of three athletes who will compete in this year's summer games in Brazil

    Arrest of Malawi's 'Hyena' Man Highlights Clash of Ritual, Health and Women's Rights

    Ritual practice of deflowering young girls is blamed for spreading deadly AIDS virus

    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    VOA finds things Americans take for granted are special to foreigners

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora